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What ever happened to the Buffalo Blue Pike?


Submitted by Charles M:

Few people today know that there was a commercial fishery here in Buffalo. Thousands of pounds of Blue Pike were caught throughout Lake Erie and it was the favorite fish in restaurants. We didn’t always eat fish shipped in from elsewhere. There was plenty of sea food here locally. Your answer is below. There is still hope a genetically true Blue Pike will turn up since it was a deep water fish or that the miracle of genetic manipulation could put it in the category of the wooly mammoth as a candidate for being brought back from extinction.

In the meantime even if we could, Lake Erie is still too hypoxic to return commercial fishing to the lake. The problem was improving up until 1990 with the removal of phosphorous and other contaminants but recent studies show the increased use of fertilizers, agricultural waste and urban/suburban waste have not just replaced the old industrial sources of pollution but exceeded enough to keep much of the lake hypoxic all year and all of the lake hypoxic periodically. There is really no place for a large fish species to live. Although lake sturgeon are doing quite well living off zebra mussels in the shallow western shores of Lake Erie. The people today will never know the bounty that came out of the Great Lakes as little as 50 years ago.

From the Ohio Sea Grant(2007):

“Yes, the blue walleye subspecies was found only in Lake Erie, and to a large degree they maintained relative isolation from the yellow walleye. They stayed in the Central Basin after spawning, often using deep water which at that time remained oxygenated. Fish species and subspecies that share the same basin will always come into contact with each other, but the blue walleye tended to school together. For spawning, they headed to the Western Basin reefs, just as do many Central Basin-dwelling yellow walleye and whitefish.

As the blue walleye diminished in number from overharvesting and very poor water quality, it became more difficult to find mates of the same species. Blues began hybridizing with yellows, producing a color phase that was called “gray pike,” or “mules.” For a short time, gray pike outnumbered blue pike in commercial catches. Then the grays disappeared from further cross breeding. The remaining blue pike traits were absorbed into the now dominant yellow walleye population.”

In a manner of speaking, the blue pike weren’t wiped out. After their numbers were sufficiently depressed, they were “soaked up.”


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